Phuket, Thailand, November 3, 2011—As the sun set spectacularly over the tranquil Andaman Sea at the tropical Karon Beach venue following Thursday’s first day of women’s main draw competition, eight women’s beach volleyball tandems from six countries remain undefeated after two rounds as the 2011 FIVB Beach Volleyball Swatch World Tour has resumed for the sixth time in Thailand with the women’s season-ending $190,000 FIVB Beach Volleyball Swatch World Tour Phuket Thailand Open powered by PTT.
The FIVB Beach Volleyball Swatch World Tour is visiting Phuket for the sixth consecutive year at the purpose-built venue on Karon Beach for the extremely popular event being held through Sunday at the dynamic tourist destination on the southwest side of exotic Phuket. Many of the world’s top and rising stars of women’s beach volleyball tandems are in Thailand as the 15-event 2011 women’s season ends with the sixth consecutive FIVB Beach Volleyball Swatch World Tour season finale in Thailand.
Australia and the Czech Republic both advanced two undefeated teams Thursday while also undefeated are additional teams from Brazil, Belgium, China and the United States.
Friday’s schedule features 22 matches ending with the two winner’s bracket matches for each gender in the late afternoon.
The semifinals will conclude play on Saturday and medal matches will be played Sunday as the winning pair shares the $30,000 first-place prizes. The silver medal team will split $21,000, the bronze $15,000 and the fourth place team will divide $11,200
The internationally-televised women’s season-finale of the 2011 FIVB Swatch World Tour schedule, the Phuket Thailand Open powered by PTT, featuring 53 teams from 26 countries, began officially on Wednesday with a single elimination qualification tournament that determined the final eight spots in the 32-team main draw double-elimination phase of the tournament which will be held through Sunday.
Setting the stage for some even more serious play on Friday, two former Phuket championship teams are once again leading the field into Thailand this year. USA’s two-time Phuket gold medal winners Jennifer Kessy/April Ross, who won in 2008 and 2009, and China’s Chen Xue/Xi Zhang, who captured the crown of the inaugural event in 2006 are both 2-0 after the first day of play.
On Thursday, USA’s second-seeded Kessy/Ross returned to one of their favorite tour stops by defeating Latvia’s 29th-seeded Inese Jursone/Inguna Minusa in the first round 21-12, 21-15 in 34 minutes. In the second-round, The American duo avenged a first-round loss last year to Canada’s 18th-seeded Heather Bansley/Elizabeth Maloney, beating them in the second round this year 21-10, 21-14 in 33 minutes.
Top-seeded in this year’s tournament, China’s Xue/Zhang methodically marched through their first two foes Thursday. First they beat Thailand’s 32nd-seeded Rumpaipruet Numwong/Tanarattha Udomchavee, 21-12, 21-11 in 31 minutes and backed that win up with another two set victory, this time by defeating Germany’s 16th-seeded Jana Kohler/Julia Sude, 21-14, 21-17 in 35 minutes.
Last year, Kessy/Ross finished 13th in the tournament as Ross was attempting to play very ill while Xue/Zhang had an injury forfeit ending the event with a ninth final placement.
“It was hot and humid here today but still pretty good weather, nicer than last year”, said Ross. “There were little breezes, sometimes cloud cover and Phuket is may be the best natural beach we play on during the FIVB Swatch World Tour. I liked how we passed, served and our ball control today, but I have to improve my transitional setting and block a little better. I feel a lot better this year than when I tried to play so sick last year.”
After their second victory of the day, Kessy commented, “We really haven’t had much time off since August when we played in the last world tour event. We played in some domestic events in the US and had a solid three week of practice to get back to the basics. I need to get better on my jump serves and improve my setting but we definitely weren’t rusty at all today.”
For the Czech Republic, the two unbeaten teams after two rounds Thursday are seventh-seeded Kristyna Kolocova/Marketa Slukova and 13th-seeded Lenka Hajeckova/Hana Klapalova.
For Australia, moving ahead to round 3 of the winner’s bracket undefeated are eighth-seeded Natalie Cook/Tamsin Hinchley and 19th-seeded Louise Bawden/Becchara Palmer.
In the triple-time upset specials of the day, both Brazil’s third-seeded Salgado sisters Carolina and Maria Clara, Spain’s fourth-seeded Elsa Bauqerizo/Liliana Fernandez and Italy’s fifth-seeded Greta Cicolari/Marta Menegatti all lost winner’s bracket matches.
All losing in the second round, Brazil’s Salgado sisters lost to Australia’s Bawden/ Palmer in three sets, Spain’s Baquerizo/Fernandez were defeated in three sets by Czech Republic’s Hajeckova/ Klapalova and Italy’s Cicolari/Menegatti lost in two sets to Belgium’s 12th-seeded Katrien Gielen/Liesbeth Mouha.
The other teams advancing undefeated with 2-0 records Thursday were Brazil’s sixth-seeded Vivian Cunha/Taiana Lima and Belgium’s Gielen/Mouha.
For Friday’s third round in the winner’s bracket, China’s Xue/Zhang will play Australia’s Cook/Hinchley, Belgium’s Gielen/Mouha will meet Czech Republic’s Hajeckova/Klapalova, Australia’s Bawden/Palmer will challenge Brazil’s Cunha/Lima and Czech Republic’s Kolocova/Slukova will face USA’s Kessy/Ross.
Thailand has three teams entered in this year’s tournament and all were pre-seeded into the main draw as the host nation. The three teams selected for the main draw are Kamoltip Kulna/Varapatsorn Radarong, Jarunee Sannok/Usa Tenpaksee and Tanarattha Udomchavee/Rumpaipruet. Numwong. Kulna/Radarong and Sannok/Tenpaksee both went undefeated this past week in Phetchaburi, Thailand to lead Thailand’s women’s team to victory at the AVC Continental Cup zonal beach volleyball tournament of Southeast Asia.
On Thursday, Thailand’s three teams combined for a 2-5 record with Udomchavee/Rumpaipruet advancing to Friday’s second round of the contender’s bracket and Kulna/Radarong advancing with a win in the first round of the contender’s bracket to play again on Friday.
In addition to the eight undefeated teams, 16 additional teams remain in the competition with one defeat each.
The eight teams that were beaten twice on Thursday will all place 25th officially and each team will split a purse of $2,000.
Also on-site this week in Phuket is a special production crew from IMG, the company that not only produces the live international telecasts of select matches, but also the weekly FIVB Beach Volleyball Swatch World Tour highlight show that is syndicated throughout the world.
The Phuket Thailand Open is being produced by Pentangle Promotions Co., Ltd. of Bangkok in association with the FIVB and the Thailand Volleyball Association.
The 2011 calendar features 15 women's and 14 men's events within all five FIVB confederations plus one special 24-team single-gender women’s test event held August 9-14 at London’s Horse Guards Parade, the venue for beach volleyball at the 2012 London Olympic Games. The 2011 FIVB Swatch World Tour is offering $7.64-million in prize money. Twelve of the tournaments were combined men's and women's events, including the World Championships and the six Grand Slam stops. The men’s tour concluded in October in Agadir Morocco.
The Phuket Thailand Open is the 232nd women’s event on the FIVB Beach Volleyball Swatch World Tour (open, grand slam, Olympic and Goodwill). The first men’s FIVB Swatch World Tour event was played February 17-22, 1987 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and the first women’s event was played August 14-16, 1992 at Almeria, Spain. There have been 271 men’s events in FIVB Swatch World Tour history.
For more information on the 2011 FIVB Beach Volleyball Swatch World Tour, please visit www.fivb.org.